Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Book Review for Nancy Drew The New Case Files #2: The Vampire’s Kiss by Stefan Petrucha and Sarah Kinney

Nancy Drew The New Case Files #2: The Vampire’s Kiss by Stefan Petrucha and Sarah Kinney

December 21, 2010
64 Pages
Ages 9–12
Fiction/Graphic Novels/Series

The Vampire’s Kiss is a combination of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight, but without real vampires, blood, or age-inappropriate material.

Nancy Drew’s story is once again remade and given a fresh twist as a graphic novel. There are at least 20 Nancy Drew graphic novels by Papercutz, but now they have created new case files for her.

Nancy Drew is now a Vampire Slayer—or is she?

The Vampire’s Kiss is a continuation of part one of this series, The Vampire Slayer. In part one, Nancy is caught up in River Heights vampire movie mania. She is dressed as a vampire slayer, but is really not one. She and her friends run into a mysterious man who exhibits clues that suggest he might be a vampire. His name is Gregor Coffson and he has recently moved into the old Benson Estate. He is a man shrouded by unknowns.

When Gregor learns about Nancy being a detective, his interest in her grows more apparent, which bothers Nancy’s boyfriend, Ned. Nancy meets with Gregor many times, learns a lot about him, and finds that she has become his friend.

Over time it becomes apparent that Gregor is not really a vampire, but a person who has a terrible condition that forces him to live a life of seclusion. He is very pale and can only come out at night. His secret, and what he needs some major help with, is for Nancy to run interference with a person who thinks Gregor really is a vampire. This person has been stalking him and won’t leave him alone. He wants Nancy to help him.

In the process of Nancy attempting to help Gregor, the villain gets access to the house and locks Nancy and Gregor inside. She confronts the intruder. The Vampire’s Kiss is the conclusion to this case.

In part two, Nancy’s friends are trying to get back into the house, which has been locked down for protection when the villain triggers the alarm. Nancy and Gregor are confronted by the villain, who is ready to kill Gregor. As Gregor becomes weaker and more scared, Nancy steps in. And the drama begins!

Gregor reveals that he is in love with Nancy, but does she share the same feelings? Has the time she spent with him made her feel so sympathetic toward him that she will return his feelings? Or is she still in love with jealous Ned? Her decisions seal her fate.

The Vampire’s Kiss is definitely filled with the kind of suspense that will captivate readers. Fans of Nancy Drew and graphic novels are going to love her new cases. She’s still the same perky girl, but as she is a bit out of her element in these stories, revealing a refreshing versatility and even more ingenuity than we have already come to expect from this junior detective.

Reviewer Renee Hand is the award-winning author of The Crypto-Capers series for children. Look for her new release in the Crypto-Capers Series: Book 4: The Chest of Mystery.

Book Review for Discover Science Animal Disguises by Belinda Weber

Discover Science Animal Disguises by Belinda Weber

December 21, 2010
56 Pages
Ages 9–12

Animal Disguises is a book filled with a plethora of information about the cleverness of animals and how they survive and protect themselves in the wild.

Similar to the other books in the Discover Series, Animal Disguises has a table of contents in the beginning of the book for easy reference. Each topic is broken down individually. The first main topic covered is camouflage. From explaining what camouflage is, from how animals blend in with their environments, whether by patterns on their coats or skin, or their color, or their size. It also includes pictures of various animals that perfectly complement the text.

Then we explore animals that match in their environments so seamlessly that one would never know they were there until stumbled upon. Some animals live in leaves, hide themselves in fruit and flowers, disguise themselves within rocks, or even imitate tree branches.

Camouflage can be achieved in various ways. Some animals use counter shading as an element of surprise, especially those animals that can be seen from the sky as well as from the water. Certain animals undergo a color-change phase. In the summer certain animals are brown to match their dry environments, while in winter their coats will change to white to match the snow.

We cannot forget the animals that are color shifters. These critters can change color to match their environment in a matter of seconds. When changing color or shape will not do, some animals will cleverly disguise themselves by adding their shape whatever happens to be around them.

There are many animals whose bodies were designed to trick a predator or prey, whether it is to save themselves, or to get food. Some animals play dead, inflate, display color, or set traps. Snakes, turtles, and fish all have their own ways of tricking prey into being their next meal, while others copy the adaptations of poisonous animals to keep them safe.

At the end of the book, there is also a crafts section, a glossary, parent and teacher notes, a section on factoids, and an animal disguises quiz to check on reading comprehension.

Overall, this book did an excellent job adding just the right amount of information to appeal to readers enough to keep their interest without bogging them down with too much detail about one specific animal. The photographs provided images sufficient for allowing the reader to see some of the changes or adaptations discussed. Children who have enjoyed the other books in the Discover Science Series will not be disappointed with this one.

Though this series is meant for children within the ages of 9–12, younger children in grades K–3 will also enjoy this book. Animal lovers will be amazed at how these creatures can adapt to their environments, increasingly appreciating the diversity and ingenuity in the animal kingdom.

Reviewer Renee Hand is the award-winning author of The Crypto-Capers series for children. Look for her new release in the Crypto-Capers Series: Book 4: The Chest of Mystery.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Review for My Penguin Osbert In Love by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

My Penguin Osbert In Love by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

December 14, 2010
48 Pages
Ages 4–8
Fiction/Children’s/Picture Book/Series Fiction
Sent by Candlewick

My Penguin Osbert in Love is a delightful story filled with friendship, devotion and love.

My Penguin Osbert in Love is the second book in this series. In the first book, My Penguin Osbert, which came out in 2004, Joe receives a real live penguin for Christmas. However, Joe obviously cannot keep a penguin at home, so he places Osbert in the local zoo, where the bird is much happier.

My Penguin Osbert In love features the return of Osbert. After leaving the safety of the zoo, along with 22 penguin friends, Osbert goes over to Joe’s house to ask him to take him to the South Pole. You see, Osbert has received an invitation to come to a “Once-in-a-Century South Pole Extravaganza” to see the southern lights. Osbert and his friends really don’t want to miss this rare event, but there is a problem—penguins don’t fly—so Osbert thinks that Joe could take him.

Joe, however, is expected to be at the Midwinter Bash his mother is throwing that day but, thinking that the South Pole is a straight shot, decides to take the real helicopter that Santa gave him this Christmas to take the tuxedo wearing bunch to their event. The story then deviates with some stops here and there, including bathroom breaks and a stop with a T-shirt-selling girl, before actually reaching the South Pole.

Once there Joe and the penguins see the southern lights, which are better than watching fireworks on the 4th of July. But that isn’t all that Osbert is staring at. He is captivated by Aurora Australis, a female penguin. From that point on Osbert is in love. The two penguins spend some time together until Joe has to return home. Twenty-three penguins returned with Joe, including Aurora, but does Joe make it to the Midwinter Bash on time?

This is a very cute story. The artwork with the colorful pastels really brings out each detail of the characters and the landscape, making it feel believable. The story was filled with humor and some fanciful exaggeration.

Osbert and Aurora’s encounter was brief and near the end of the story; it could have been further developed. Though children will be left with a curiosity about what will happen with Aurora and Osbert, they will also enjoy the illustrations and humor. Children ages 4–8, who loved the first picture book, will be excited to read this 48-page sequel.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Book Review for How George Washington Saved The American Revolution (The Crossing) by Jim Murphy

How George Washington Saved The American Revolution (The Crossing) by Jim Murphy
Scholastic Press
December 1, 2010
96 Pages
Ages 9-12
Nonfiction/George Washington/Historical

The Crossing is a delightful recounting of George Washington’s journey into becoming one of the most memorable men that has ever lived.

The Crossing begins with the battles at Lexington and Concord in Boston where the American forces triumphed over the British. This was the infancy of the Revolutionary War. Knowing that the British would come back from their great loss, retaliating with a vengeance, the colonies needed a strong leader to command. John Adams suggested George Washington. At that time he already had an illustrious career as a military man. Washington accepted the position, but with reservation. He soon learned that he would have to fight with an army that was inexperienced and raw. Most were farmers and had little training.

Washington would go up against General William Howe, who was a fierce and courageous fighter. Defeating him was going to be almost impossible—especially with the men Washington had under his command. They were undisciplined and unruly. When the sign of battle came, most of the men fled for their lives. When the battles became tougher, many of his men deserted. Washington was sure they were going to lose. Howe was outfoxing him at every turn. But then certain blessings came to Washington, fates of luck concerning the weather.

Fog hid his men from view when they had retreated to a place of safety. Rain was also a factor that helped Washington. He soon realized that he could not defeat Howe the old conventional way: Howe had a more experienced army, well disciplined soldiers, and the respect of his men. Washington definitely had some work to do.

But Washington was crafty beyond his years. He went to more of a hit-and-run approach in taking out the British. It was working splendidly for him. Without having to face his enemy in a head on battle this approach saved more of his men’s lives and brought confidence to his army.

With the cunning and bravery of Washington, and with the help of some of his valiant generals, Washington was able to beat the British. The British signed a peace treaty that officially recognized the United States as a free and independent country. As for George Washington, he changed during the war. He started out as a man who could have failed at any moment, to a man who would lead our country toward what it is today.

The Crossing retells in detail every battle and hardship that Washington had to endure during the Revolutionary War. It is a very interesting historical accounting. It shows George Washington’s ability to overcome the odds against an army that should have beaten him. With a ragtag amateur army, George Washington bested the enemy several times. This story speaks of George Washington’s leadership, strength and determination. He was indeed an amazing man.

Though this story is a very serious accounting about George Washington’s journey through the Revolutionary War, it would have been interesting to see his other side as well. George Washington was a lover of animals. He had many pets. During the war, General Howe had lost his dog; it had wandered where Washington’s men had found it. Instead of hurting the animal, Washington returned it to its owner along with a letter. His kindness brought him some respect from the English people. After the war, George Washington was a well-liked man, which obviously led him into becoming our nation’s first president. He had definitely proven himself during the war, not just in his tactical abilities but in his humanity.

The author, Jim Murphy, is celebrated for his engaging and carefully researched nonfiction for young readers, winning many awards for his works.

Even children older than the targeted ages of 9–12 will love the history the story provides. The Crossing also shows many pictures, the famous one being on the cover, Washington crossing the Delaware. In the back of the book is an explanation of the painting. There is also a brief timeline of the Revolutionary War, along with websites to further discussion. Overall, a great historical read of one of our nations great men.

Reviewer Renee Hand is the award-winning author of The Crypto-Capers series for children. Look for her new release in the Crypto-Capers Series: Book 4: The Chest of Mystery.